Avatar Explains its Side
Jeremiah V. Murphy, staff reporter
The Boston underground newspaper, The Avatar, defended Tuesday its tendency for using four-letter, usually unprintable, words.
After several hours of testimony, Cambridge District Court Judge M. Edward Viola took the case of three young men, charged with selling obscene material under advisement.
Charged are George Tower, 26, of Western av., Cambridge, John E. Rogers, 19, of St. Botolph st., Boston, and Daniel L. Oates, 20, of Centre st., Roxbury.
Charges of selling, distributing or hawking a newspaper without a permit or badge were dismissed.
Last Friday in Boston Municipal Court, Judge Elijah Adlow sentenced two other men in connection with selling the newspaper, saying, "I am sorry we have this cesspool in Boston."
The Avatar, formerly based at 152 Columbia st., Cambridge, is a tabloid size offset newspaper, averaging 20 pages. Its 14 editions to date have been printed at two-week intervals with a press run of 12,000 to 15,000 copies.
Including colored borders and many stark cartoons, it is effectively unconventional in makeup and writing style, often using a stream-of-consciousness approach to its stories. What has attracted attention and some indignation, in the so called straight, non-hippie world is consistent tendency to salt the prose with words generally considered obscene.
The Nov. 24 edition's centerfold included four-letter words, often seen scrawled on the walls of public toilets, printed in capital letters. Except for a psychedelic pattern, there was nothing else on the double page.
According to Wayne Hansen, 32, co editor, "Avatar" means, in Sanskrit, "the spirit of God manifested today."
The paper's editorial office is at 37 Rutland st., South End, the former home of the defunct Mid-Town Journal, a racy weekly that specialized in Boston's seamier side of life.
Through some advertising, but mostly on sales, the paper meets production costs, according to Hansen, but the staff itself is not paid.
Hansen, a pleasant, intelligent young man, is vague concerning his home town, mentioning cities from the West Coast to New England. He graduated from Exeter Academy and attended Harvard for a year and a half before going to New York. He views the crackdown on the newspaper and those selling it as "harassment" from the straight world, particularly Cambridge Mayor Daniel Hayes Jr.
"I think they are more worried who we are, rather than if the paper is obscene," he said in a recent interview. "What gets everyone is that we are a threat to their security."
Why did they print the centerfold with four solitary words?
"We're trying to shock people, shake them up, make them angry. People become more real when they are angry. I think people coming together, even in anger, is the most important thing," he said.